Greenery

The Greener, The Better

Every day brings in new hope. We leave the past behind us, and live in the present and dream about the future. We learn from our past mistakes and do things in the present for a brighter future.

The world is getting a tougher place to live. The year 2011 witnessed the 99% challenging the BIG 1%. It’s a competitive world, where the rich become richer and the poor, poorer. In addition to the financial revolution, the world also saw the dawn of a number of public agitations against the powerful. To top it all, the global temperature is rising, and so is the population.

As the challenges in front of us are increasing, we are frantically searching for a solution. Most of us don’t realize that the solution is simple. Actually, the solution IS “Simple”. Be simple. It is actually the complexity of our modern life that poses such challenges to us. The key to a calmer and secure future is nothing but simplicity. It’s not that simple to define simplicity, and even more difficult to practice it. The core idea behind simplicity is to break down the BIG problems that we mankind face as a whole into individual problems, that each one can solve.

In every economy in the world, the major problem a common man face, is the price rise of the essential commodities, especially food. It is a less acknowledged fact that, we choose a career (voluntarily or forced) to feed ourselves and our family. So it’s actually a novel idea to grow some food ourselves. We may not be able to produce all we need. But still, we have to try with the little spare time and some unused space at our home. This may not be practical for everyone of us. But don’t shy away from trying it out, if you have both time and land to spare.
Reducing the carbon emissions is another hot topic of discussion now a days.

With the rising energy demand, this looks like an almost impossible task. Global warming is posing a serious threat of floods and havoc, like a sword hanging right above our heads in a thin silk thread. This global problem can be solved to some extent at an individual level if we stick to energy conservation and energy self-sustenance. Some of the clichéd, yet efficient ways include:

  • Switching off electrical appliances when not in use
  • Regular maintenance of all equipments to ensure higher efficiency
  • Using natural lighting and ventilation whenever ( and wherever) possible
  • Opting mass transport for individual journeys and own vehicles for travel with friends or family
  • The Sun is shining all day right above our heads. If you can, use some solar powered lights or heaters or cookers
  • Improvise existing methods and equipments to make them smarter and greener

These and many more strategies are necessary for the sustenance of life in this Green – Blue planet of ours. The Earth is gifted with life supporting elements and conditions. Once we ruin all that, we wont be able to reclaim them. It was our small steps that made us leap in the past. Don’t let our small mistakes and carelessness wipe us all from the face of Earth. So let’s break the BIG problems of mankind into small individual problems and solve it.

Electric Power From Waste Water

Electric power from waste water

According to recent report by the Science Journal,a research team at the  Pennsylvania State University developed a technology that would simultaneously treat the water and produce power. They think the process could be used to provide clean water and power for homes in the developing countries. The idea of electric power from waste water can be real boon to all developing countries.

Electric Power From Waste Water Engineers at Pennsylvania State University have combined two cutting-edge energy-generation technologies—microbial fuel cells and reverse electrodialysis (RED)—to make a hybrid device that could generate enough energy from waste water to power its treatment and even feed some extra electricity into the grid.

A microbial fuel cell (MFC) or biological fuel cell is a bio-electrochemical system that drives a current by mimicking bacterial interactions found in nature.

In Reverse electrodialysis (RED), fresh water and seawater are placed in intermittent chambers separated by membranes, and an electrochemical charge is created. This technology has been researched by Scientists in the Netherlands for some years to generate renewable power along the country’s coastline, where fresh water from rivers meets the salt water of the sea.

The Penn State team says RED technology is problematic because of the large number of membranes required, and because power plants have to be located by the sea. They claim the number of membranes can be reduced and the power output boosted by combining the technology with microbial fuel cells (MFCs).

Both schemes have been under intense study, but each has a big drawback. Microbial fuel cells produce little power, and RED cells must be stacked up in a series of at least 20 pairs of membranes, which don’t come cheap. Combining the two technologies overcame both weaknesses, says Logan: “It’s like a turbocharger.” The combination lowered the number of stacks required for RED to 5 instead of 20 and raised, by more than seven times, the amount of power the fuel cell generated when fed a diet of domestic wastewater.

Finding an opportunity to prove the scaled up technology in a real-world installation is a recurring problem in the water industry, as municipalities are famously conservative about trying new technologies that haven’t succeeded elsewhere.

But Since as the population increases the amount of waste water is going to rise and so the countries like India will need to try these technologies soon.

National_Science_Day_2012

National Science Day 2012

National Science Day is celebrated in India on February 28 every year since 1986 to mark the discovery of the Raman effect by Indian physicist Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman on 28 February 1928.

History : In 1986, the National Council for Science and Technology Communication (NCSTC) asked the Government of India to designate February 28 as National Science Day. The event is now celebrated all over the country in schools, colleges, universities and other academic, scientific, technical, medical and research institutions.

The focal theme for 2012 National Science Day is “Clean Energy Options and Nuclear Safety

Main Events  as a Part of National Science Day 2012

Discussions on clean energy options and nuclear safety  by Agharkar Research Institute (ARI), Pune

Major speaker of this event includes G M Pillai, director general, World Institute of Sustainable Energy, Pune, Dr Satishchandra Ogale, scientist, Physical and Materials Chemistry, National Chemical Laboratory and Dr A K Dhuss. The event starts on feb 23rd and will conclude on feb 29th including an exhibition on Feb 27th and 28th highlighting the achievements of the institute.

Five-day Science Carnival 2012 , Ahmedabad

Organised by Gujarat Science City (GSC) and Gujarat Council on Science and Technology (GUJCOST) The event starts on feb 28th and will be inaugurated by Ravi Saxena, IAS, additional chief secretary, department of science and technology, government of Gujarat, at 4 pm. The carnival will have participation of students from different schools and colleges. There will also be a series of programs including youth engagement in science, competitions like quiz, drawing and puzzle.

Films screened as a part of this carnival at  Science City are ‘Preserving Biodiversity’, ‘What are the stars’ and ‘Building of the Earth’

Speakers include Dr RR Navalgund, director, SAC-ISRO and Prof JN Goswami, director, PRL.

A youth Parliament will also be organized on Tuesday with the participation of 150 students , “Clean Energy Options and Nuclear Safety” as the theme.

Heritage walk  in the historical astronomical observatory Jantar Mantar, New Delhi 

Organised  by NGO Space Popularisation Association of Communicators and Educators (SPACE) in collaboration with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

The walk will also commemorate 100 years of Delhi as a capital and 150 years of ASI. On the occasion, science experts from SPACE will demonstrate and discuss the working of the ancient instruments at the 300-year-old astronomical observatory.

Entertainment

Some people say man is unique and special than all other organisms. But, every man is unique compared to other men. We have certain likes and dislikes.
Being a higher organism, both socially and intellectually, we have to make certain preferences all through our life, and almost everyday. We’ve to make certain compromises to lead a happy life. One such critical choice we make in our lives is regarding our career. So, most people will settle for a job that helps them pay their bills in time.
But, that is no easy task. The usual mantra is ‘Work, work and more work‘. In that busy schedule, most find little time to relax. But, it is a basic necessity for all human beings, to sit back and relax. This is again where we all differ in our preferences. The method of relaxation is influenced by personal preferences.
Somewhere in the process of civilization, our ancestors realised the necessity to relax their minds from the tiring work. So, they developed methods to entertain themselves. The performing arts thus became a part of their lives. The magical nature of music and dance made them popular among people. The soothing effect of music is acknowledged all over the world. The power of music to relax our mind and body is a scientific fact.


Soon, literature emerged as a means to entertain people. Language became a tool for expressing ones fantasies to fellow beings and make them relax by taking them into a new world, where they are away from their own worries. Poets added beauty to language, while fiction writers added imagination. Many a writers have mesmerized the world through their writings.
Literature based performing arts like drama, followed suit. The power of language combined with the beauty of visualization made drama a popular artform. The era of theater was thus born. William Shakespeare is one of the most famous play-writers in the world. The ancient Indian play-writer, Kalidasa wrote many epic plays that are still considered the strongest pillars in our literary world.
The invention of photography greatly contributed to the enhancement of visual beauty of arts. By combining photography to theatrical arts, a new artform was established – Cinema. Cinema improved the freedom of expression and pushed the theatrical arts to newer vistas. Camera added flexibility to the imagination of our writers. The cinema could focus more on the emotions of the characters than a drama could. This made cinema, the most popular mass entertainment media in the world.


As time progressed, more and more mass entertainment medias were introduced. Presently, the internet too has become a means of entertainment. Though it is not an entertainment media in the real sense, it can still be considered as one.
The preference of a means of entertainment is personal. It depends on the mindset of the person. Some listen to music, while some others watch movies to relax. Whatever be the means of entertainment, the ultimate aim is the same. But, the important thing is that we should find some time to relax and cool off. Our mind and our body needs it.

DNA

The Alchemy of Life

Deoxyribonucleic acid, popularly known as D.N.A is the building block of life. Every organism, except for a few viruses, have D.N.A as their genetic material. It is responsible for transmitting vital characters from one generation to another. But, these are all basic facts known to practically everyone.
The curious fact is that, a few elements is the basic block of life. These complex molecules are responsible for all our characters and helps pass them from one generation to another. Somewhere in the past, due to reasons yet not fully understood completely, the first prototypes of nucleic acids were created. These then combined with each other and became more complex and evolved into life.


It’s actually quite difficult to understand how some chemical compounds (like sugars and phosphate groups linked via an ester bond) is actually the ‘life’ behind life. It’s a pure chemical compound (is it actually a compound?). If we consider it as a pure chemical product, then life too is all about chemical reactions. Even our thoughts and emotions are the results of chemical reactions initiated by hormones or enzymes. Our mind can simply be defined as ‘the sum of some chemical reactions and changes taking lace inside our brain’.
But such a consideration may also lead us to imagine life as mere chemical reactions. The importance and speciality of life is lost. We, who contain life inside our bodies become equivalent to conical flasks used in laboratories to perform reactions.
But, there is another version to this story of life. It’s not modern chemistry, it’s alchemy. Alchemy – the ancient study and search for the philosopher’s stone that can convert lead into gold! The human mind should be like the philosopher’s stone. It must be able to transform our lives into something that’s quite valuable – pure gold.
Our body is a mixture of various chemical products in varying proportions. This doesn’t mean it is like any other non-living object. The very presence of life changes everything. It brings in a difference to the very core. So even if a tree can’t move about as it wishes, it is quite different from a rock due to the presence of life alone. So, even if the basic building block of life is just a few chemical compounds, life is much more than a chemical reaction.
The very nature of all our behaviour and characteristic traits can be attributed to a few chemical compounds known as ‘hormones’. These are much more complex chemical compounds that helps our body be in balance. They control everything from our hunger or thirst to rage and anger. They help us survive by increasing or decreasing the level of blood pressure, heart beat, etc. They help in metabolism, which is the process by which our food is broken down into energy and waste products.
Alchemy is an ancient practise, or search for knowledge of ‘Philosopher’s stone’, that can transform lead into gold. The human body is the best textbook for alchemy. It is full of examples that show how certain chemical compounds can create marvels. How a fragment of nucleic acid can create life is written on every living organism. The mystery of life is in these chemical compounds. Like the DNA, it is also twisted in nature. We have to unravel it to understand ourselves more.
If love and hate are the products of some hormones, why should we be like fuming bottles of sulphuric acid, poisoning the environment and ourselves? Be gold, pure gold. Be worthy in life!!!

mind

The Operating System

For the functioning of a computer, we need an operating system or O.S. Just like an operating system is necessary for the working of a computer, human beings too need an operating system to keep us working. It’s our mind. It is more complex and efficient than any of it’s man made counterparts. Our mind is the platform that helps us live in a sane and social manner.
All the characteristics of an operating system holds good for human mind too. Mind acts as a resource manager and helps us do our work in an efficient way possible, by suitably allocating our talents for the tasks to be performed. Mind works on the human body, just like an operating system works on a bare machine. Mind translates our thoughts into actual muscular or skeletal action, while an O.S translates high level script to machine code.


This natural O.S known as the mind is functionally more superior to any computer operating system. It is self programmable. In case of computers, new software need to be installed for improving the functionality of the system. But, if these software suffer from any code error, they will malfunction or has bugs. They are not self correcting. But human mind is self correcting and has learning capability, that today’s operating systems envy.
Security is a major concern for developers. The O.S must be impervious to attack of malicious software and hackers. Human mind too has no foolproof security measures. The mind can be easily corrupted by other people, who are much like hackers. These real world hackers inject malicious ideals and ideas into other people. There is an unlocked door in our mind. If someone can spot the location of that door, he may sneak into the mind to control our body.
A firewall can be installed to protect a computer from attack. Likewise, we too should have a firewall to keep intruders out of our mind. It is called conscience. We must weigh each and every of our choices before taking any decision. We must be able to spot the good from the bad. Our conscience must do this vital task for us. We may be tricked into using our instincts instead of our consciences. It will land us and others in danger.
Our mind is usually divided into the conscious and the sub-conscious minds. We may try to be someone, by controlling the conscious mind. But we have our true self inside the depths of our sub- conscious mind. It controls all our involuntary emotions. It’s like the kernel of an operating system. The core around which all other things are developed.
Mind plays an important role in our lives. We can only sense it’s presence, like an in-built software. The role of our mind is so crucial that our very existence as a sane being depends very much on the health of our mind. If an operating system crashes, we can re install it to get the computer working. But if the mind crashes, the whole thing is lost. There is no return from such a situation. That’s the major difference between the human mind and an ordinary, man made O.S. Even if someday, we can re program our minds using some freak technology, the human mind in it’s natural state is far far advanced than it, in many matters.
The mind is the world’s first and the best operating system. It is a free O.S, that comes with such exciting packages like emotions. We must make it secure, as it can control a human being. How you use your mind is equally important as for what you use it. We must keep that in mind.

jupiter stripes

Jupiter is getting back its lost belt

One of Jupiter’s stripes went missing Earlier this year. The Southern Equatorial Band (SEB) started to get lighter and paler, and eventually disappeared.

Now, follow-up images from both professional and amateur astronomers are showing some activity in the area of the SEB, and scientists now believe the vanished dark stripe is making a comeback.

The reason Jupiter seemed to ‘lose’ this band – camouflaging itself among the surrounding white bands – is that the usual downwelling winds that are dry and keep the region clear of clouds died down,” said Glenn Orton, a research scientist at JPL.

The stripe, known as the South Equatorial Belt (SEB), is located just south of Jupiter’s equator and can be seen with amateur telescopes. It is usually brown, but last spring, it turned white. In early November, amateur astronomer Christopher Go of Cebu City in the Philippines observed a prominent bright spot in the unusually whitened belt – which astronomers are calling a “storm’ on Jupiter. This bright spot caused professional and amateur astronomers around the world to turn their telescopes toward Jupiter.

After follow-up observations with NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF), the 10-meter Keck telescope and the 8-meter Gemini telescope, all atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii, scientists now believe the stripe is making a comeback.

The white band wasn’t the only change on the big, gaseous planet. At the same time, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot became a darker red color. Orton said the color of the spot – a giant storm on Jupiter that is three times the size of Earth and a century or more old – will likely brighten a bit again as the South Equatorial Belt makes its comeback.

avicenna

Avicenna

He was one of the greatest Polymath. Avicenna, aka Abu Ali al-Husain ibn Abdallah ibn Sina, was a Persian physician, philosopher, and scientist who was born in 980 in Kharmaithen near Bukhara, now in Uzbekistan (then Persia), and died June 1037 in Hamadan, Persia (Iran).

He had authored about 450 of works on a wide variety of subjects mainly of philosophy and medicine.His most famous works are The Book of Healing and The Canon of Medicine, also known as the Qanun (full title: al-qanun fil-tibb), was a standard medical text at many medieval universities. The ‘Qanun fi-l-Tibb’ is an immense encyclopedia of medicine. It contains some of the most illuminating thoughts pertaining to distinction of mediastinitis from pleurisy; contagious nature of phthisis; distribution of diseases by water and soil; careful description of skin troubles; of sexual diseases and perversions; of nervous ailments

He is considered by many to be “the father of modern medicine.” George Sarton called Ibn Sina “the most famous scientist of Islam and one of the most famous of all races, places, and times.”

His Early Life and How he become a Polymath !

His father was an official of the Samanid administration, and so he was  very carefully educated at Bukhara. Although traditionally influenced by the Islam, his independent thought was served by an extraordinary intelligence and memory, which allowed him to overtake his teachers at the age of fourteen. Ibn Sina was put under the charge of a tutor, and his precocity soon made him the marvel of his neighbours. He displayed exceptional intellectual behavior and was a Child prodigy who had memorized the Quran by the age of 10 and a great deal of Persian poetry as well. He learned arithmetic from a greengrocer, and he began to learn more from a wandering scholar who gained a livelihood by curing the sick and teaching the young.

However he was greatly troubled by metaphysical problems and in particular the works of Aristotle. So,  he also started  studying philosophy, in which he encountered greater obstacles. In such moments of baffled inquiry, he would leave his books, perform the requisite ablutions, then go to the mosque, and continue in prayer till light broke on his difficulties.

Deep into the night he would continue his studies, stimulating his senses by occasional cups of goat’s milk, and even in his dreams problems would pursue him and work out their solution. It is said, he read through the Metaphysics of Aristotle forty times, till the words were imprinted on his memory. but their meaning was hopelessly obscure, until one day they found illumination, from the little commentary by Farabi, which he bought at a bookstall for the small sum of three dirhems.

He turned to medicine at 16, and not only learned medical theory, but by gratuitous attendance on the sick had, according to his own account, discovered new methods of treatment. The teenager achieved full status as a physician at age of  18 and found that “Medicine is no hard and thorny science, like mathematics and metaphysics, so he soon made great progress. He became an excellent doctor and began to treat patients, using approved remedies. The youthful physician’s fame spread quickly, and he treated many patients without asking for payment.His first appointment was that of physician to the emir, who owed him his recovery from a dangerous illness (997). Ibn Sina’s chief reward for this service was access to the royal library of the Samanids, well-known patrons of scholarship and scholars. Meanwhile, he assisted his father in his financial labours, but still found time to write some of his earliest works.

Check the wikipedia page for more details of his life.


An impressive monument to the life and works of the man who is known as the ‘doctor of doctors’ still stands outside the Bukhara museum and his portrait hangs in the Hall of the Faculty of Medicine in the University of Paris. There is a crater on the moon called Avicenna which was named after him. His hard work and interest to learn new things made him a polymath at very young age. He was a lot self motivated. Anyone can become a polymath if you have the will.

Books about Avicenna
Avicenna By by Lenn E. Goodman
Avicenna (Great Medieval Thinkers) by Jon McGinnis
Books By Avicenna( available at amazon)
The Metaphysics of The Healing (Brigham Young University – Islamic Translation Series)
The Physics of The Healing: A Parallel English-Arabic Text in Two Volumes (Brigham Young University – Islamic Translation Series)

polymath

Polymath

A polymath is  a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. In less formal terms, a polymath (or polymathic person) may simply be someone who is very knowledgeable. Most ancient scientists were polymaths.


Not just scientists but many others including philosophers and many others we are not known of were polymaths. Obviously ancient people knew a lot more than us.

Any one can become a polymath if he has the right motivation. A polymath is not a person who is perfect in everything. But he makes a lot of mistakes. A lot of new mistakes till something gets right. Like Edison who made the bulb after more than 2000 trials.Its from these mistakes that new sciences are created. Many theories were proposed by many scientists. But many were proved wrong or modified or added more and so. Its the mistakes in theories  that led to new theories.

Similarly the term Renaissance man is used to describe a person who is well educated or who excels in a wide variety of subjects or fields. According to Leon Battista Alberti, one of the most accomplished representatives of Renaissance Italy,  “a man can do all things if he will.”

Renaissance humanism led to the notion that people should embrace all knowledge and develop their capacities as fully as possible. Leonardo da Vinci is regarded as a “Renaissance man”

A polymath uses all parts of his brain and always think differently. Its not about remembering all knowledge. But using his knowledge to create new knowledge for others. A polymath may be a an artist,  composer,  poet, scientist, philosopher, and a lot more. I mean all of these together.

I have seen very few polymathic persons in this new world. But some around me are really developing to be polymaths sometime.

Vacuumwalker is a true polymath. I too want to be one.

I am starting a category on polymaths here and i will write about some of the well known and some less known brilliant polymaths of ancient times in coming posts.

PS: Genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration